PPS finds elevated levels of radon in some buildings

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas

Portland Public Schools administrative offices in North Portland, where administrators are the subject of two filed lawsuits and one to be filed by the end of March. (Portland Tribune file photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland Public Schools announced late Wednesday that there is elevated radon level in six schools.

The memo was e-mailed to community and members of the media at 10:34 p.m. on Wednesday.

It read that “Portland Public Schools today (Wednesday) received radon test results that showed elevated levels in some buidlings (sic).” It does not specificy when exactly the district received the results on Wednesday.

David Hobbs, senior director of Facilities and Asset Management, sent a memo to the Board of Education detailing the testing results.

In that memo, dated June 1, he writes that PPS hired a company in March 2016 to conduct “district-wide radon testing based on the requirements of new legislation mandating testing in every school by January 2021.” The last time PPS tested for radon was 2001, according to Hobbs’ memo.

Interactive Radon Map in Oregon

The district decided to start testing in 2016 and focused on the 26 buildings that had higher radon levels in 2001 and received remediation, according to the memo. Of the 26 buildings, the district tested about 800 rooms.

“I received final results today that indicate 121 rooms exceeded the initial action level of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) but were less than 10 pCi/L.

  • For 4 pCi/L or above, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines recommend a long term follow up test.
  • Per EPA guidelines, a follow up test is done for 9 months during the school year immediately following the initial test period.
  • These tests will be scheduled for the fall of the 2016-­‐17 school year.
  • PPS will follow the EPA guidelines for testing and mitigation.”

The test results also showed that 9 rooms in 6 schools (Meek, Beaumont, Whitman, Roseway Heights, Lent and Marysville had levels of 10 pCi/L or higher, according to the memo.

Re-testing at those locations will start on Monday and will last for 48 to 72 hours, according to the memo. The district says it will follow EPA guidelines for testing and mitigation.

“Once we get back the second test results–that will tell us what we need to do,” Portland Public Schools spokesperson, Christine Miles, told KOIN. “Because radon comes from the ground, we have to determine–do we isolate the area and if so, how then do we reduce the levels in the schools. it’s going to be a long-term project.”

Radon Risk by Zip Code

Test your home for Radon

According to the memo, citing the EPA:

  • Radon is a radioactive gas.
  • It enters from the soil under the schools through cracks and openings in the foundation.
  • Because there is a difference in pressure, the buildings act “like a vacuum, drawing radon inside from the soil.”

In 2001, the district took three types of radon mitigation. The district says it plans to use similar strategies, if warranted, after the second round of testing.

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